Close Menu

Oregon winery turns 12,000 gallons of tainted Pinot Noir into spirits

Patricia Green Cellars in Oregon has salvaged its smoke-tainted 2020 harvest by distilling the grapes into two whiskey/brandy blends.

When Patricia Green Cellars was left with 12,000 gallons of tainted Pinot Noir following the devastating wildfires which sliced through Oregon in 2020, head winemaker Jim Anderson found an innovative solution.

Teaming up with local Oregon distillery Big Wild Spirits, he took a leap to see whether a palatable spirit could be made from the ruined grapes.

What began as an experiment has resulted in two products  – both brandy/whiskey blends – marketed under new brand name Patty Green.

Multifarious is a blend of 80% malted barley distillate (‘whiskey’) and 20% brandy, with notes of “dried fruits earthen spices, molasses, tea, oak, and ginger snaps” on the palate.

The barrels used to house the blend, including ex-Pinot Noir casks, were sanded, toasted, and charred to remove any trace of the wine.

Purple Karma Pinnacle, named after the barley type used in the whiskey mash bill, was aged for two and a half years in ex-Pinot Noir barrels and also consists of 80% whiskey and 20% brandy. It is said to have notes of “fruit, tobacco, spice, and an oaky sweetness”.

The drinks business has previously asked whether smoke-tainted grapes can have an after-life, and this example from Patricia Green Cellars would suggest that they can.

If there are any obstacles to sale then these are likely to be twofold.

Firstly, the high alcohol strength of the blends (Multifarious was bottled at 98 proof while Purple Karma Pinnacle was bottled at a cask strength of 112 proof).

According to Patricia Green Cellars this is “slightly higher than you would see from most commercial whiskeys that hit the 90-ish proof level”. However, the producer claims this gives the blend “a slight amount of bite from the heat…but overall richness and density of mouthfeel.” For the latter, bottled at 112 proof, the producer recommends adding ice or water “to your level of satisfaction”.

The second potential challenge will be the super-premium price point – Multifarious retails for US$80, and Purple Karma Pinnacle for US$200. The top-end price tags mean these blends must stand up on their own, rather than relying on their novelty factor.

However, it should be noted that the price of the new spirits aligns with the wider pricing strategy of the producer, with Patricia Green Cellars’ wines ranging from US$45 per bottle to US$150.

Despite the volume of wine used to produce the spirit blends, production is relatively small with 135 cases of Multifarious made, and only 37 cases of Purple Karma Pinnacle. Both are available to purchase directly from the winery’s website.

Patricia Green Cellars is a Pinot Noir specialist, and in 2021 bottled an astonishing 36 separate single-varietal expressions of the grape from its dry-farmed Willamette Valley vineyards. All plots are organically or sustainably farmed, and vines date back as far as 1984.

The estate also produces a number of Chardonnays, starting from US$42 for its Durant Vineyard Chardonnay, and going up to US$175 for a 1.5l bottle of its Estate Vineyard Chardonnay.

Last September db reported that Jackson Family Wines is funding vital research into smoke-taint, donating US$300,000 to create the Jackson Family Wines Endowed Professorship at Washington State University’s (WSU) Department of Viticulture & Enology (V&E). The sum will fund research led by Dr. Tom Collins, an industry leader in wine grape smoke taint research.

“Our hope is that Tom’s continued research will not only benefit the local Washington winemaking community, but the global wine industry as well,” said Christopher Jackson, second-generation proprietor of Jackson Family Wines.

It looks like you're in Asia, would you like to be redirected to the Drinks Business Asia edition?

Yes, take me to the Asia edition No